Laissez-faire is not good enough for reforestation
In order to restore tropical rainforests, it is not enough to simply set up protected areas and leave them to their own devices. In particular, tree species with large fruit and seeds distributed by birds will have to be actively planted. This is one of the conclusions of a large-scale study by scientists from ETH Zurich in the Western Ghats, the mountain range running along the western coast of India. Today, the rainforest that exists there is highly fragmented. In the late 20th century in particular, large areas fell victim to intensive logging and commercial agriculture such as coffee and tea plantations.
Working with Indian colleagues, the ETH researchers investigated how well trees from rainforest fragments could spread to areas that had previously been cleared or logged but are now back under forest cover. At the heart of their study was the white cedar (Dysoxylum malabaricum), a tropical species belonging to the mahogany family. “These rainforest giants tower above the other trees and therefore occupy an important ecological niche,” says Chris Kettle, a scientist at ETH Zurich’s Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, who led the study.
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Photo: A fragmented rainforest landscape in India’s Western Ghats
Photo Credits: ETH Zurich / Sascha Ismail